Isthmus sent the six candidates for the July 12 Democratic primary for the 48th Assembly seat questions about why they're running for office and what they hope to accomplish. Here is what they had to say.
Current employment: Public Policy Director at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, 2003-present (currently on leave running for office) Campaign website:
3. Explain how, as a member of the minority, you can be effective in fighting against the Republican agenda?
As the lead advocate for an organization that is constantly under fire, I know firsthand how to move policies forward in the most hostile circumstances. When you encounter obstacles moving policies forward in the Capitol, you need to take the issues to the communities and mobilize citizens.
In the 2005-2006 session, when the Republican leadership wouldn't schedule the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Act for a hearing, I helped organized hearings in the Republicans' backyards. By the next session, I helped secure a Republican sponsor of the bill, which got scheduled for a floor vote. Despite efforts to gut the bill on the floor, it passed intact. This was one of only a handful of progressive bills that passed under the Republican controlled Assembly during the 2007-2008 session, and was the first pro-active reproductive health bill to pass the legislature in over 30 years.
As an attorney and litigator, I know how to negotiate, creatively problem solve and get progressive policies moving forward.
4. Which issues do you find common ground with Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans? If you don't see any common ground, how will you try to sway them to your point of view?
As a practicing attorney for six years, I know how to negotiate and creatively solve problems. As an advocate, I have a history of trying to work with both parties. One of the biggest challenges with Gov. Walker and the current Republican leadership is their refusal to negotiate. I know that when you're in a stalemate, you need to get out of the Capitol, mobilize the public, and strategically putting pressure on the Republicans to do the right thing.
Unfortunately, the current Republican leadership has decimated so many things that make our state great -- our tradition of respecting workers and supporting collective bargaining, protecting our beautiful nature environment, and supporting strong public schools. Legislative Republicans have preserved SeniorCare, and some of the funding for the statewide recycling program, although our statewide recycling is worse off than it was prior to this budget. I agree that these are critical programs that need to be funded.
I supported Gov. Walker keeping the RTA in the budget. RTAs are important because we need to invest in alternate forms of transportation in order to protect our environment and expand our economy. Unfortunately, legislative Republicans destroyed the RTA mechanism in the budget process.
5. Closing the deficit has become a rallying cry for the Republicans and it is one that resonates with many Wisconsin residents. Is it important to balance the budget and if so, how would you do so? If it isn't important, why not?
Balancing the budget is extremely important. Budgets are also value statements. Right now, the Republicans are balancing the budget on the backs of working people while giving millions in corporate tax breaks. I would balance the budget by adopting fair tax policies so that everyone is paying their fair share. We need to close corporate loopholes that allow companies to get away with not paying anywhere close to their fair share of the taxes. We also need to look at ways to generate revenue rather than continue to cut from our most vulnerable citizens.
6. What role should the state play in protecting the environment? Name some specific programs you would push for?
As the only candidate that has been endorsed by the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, I believe that the state has an integral role in the protection of the environment, not just as a regulator but for economic expansion. A healthy environment is an essential piece of a strong economy and sustains important industries in Wisconsin, including tourism; outdoor recreation activities including hunting and fishing; and agriculture, which depends on the availability of clean water and land. We need to enforce the laws and regulations we already have, such as rules around polluted runoff. Having an independent Public Intervener would help with enforcement issues.
Environmental programs I would support include restoring the Wisconsin Conservation Corp, full funding of the Stewardship Fund absent restrictions that impede the program, an Independent Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and investing in public transit such as buses and bike paths while restoring the RTAs.
We also need to start getting serious about addressing our role in global warming. I would work to pass legislation to wean our dependence on fossil fuels and promote a strong, local green economy that puts money back into our local economy.
7. Most Democratic candidates -- and most residents in the 48th district -- agree that the state should provide services to the poor, disabled and elderly. At the same time, these programs are among the fastest growing in cost to the state. How can the state simultaneously control these costs while providing better services to people? Are there any grand reforms you would push for?
I would fight for expanding programs that allow the disabled and elderly to stay in their homes rather than in institutionalized care. This saves the state money while maintaining some independence for individuals.
We also need to protect programs like SeniorCare that allow seniors to access affordable prescription drugs.
We can help alleviate poverty while still controlling costs by investing in programs that help prevent poverty in the first place, such as early childhood education, child care supports, investing in our public schools, job training for marketable skills and supporting tax credits like the earned income and homestead tax credits for low and middle income families. We also need to make a concerted effort to educate teens to avoid having children, which is a key indicator for living in poverty.
8. What reforms, if any, would you make to the Wisconsin tax system? If you wouldn't make any, why do you think the current tax system is appropriate?
I think that we need to make significant changes to the Wisconsin tax system to make it more equitable. While Gov. Walker was slashing tax credits for working families, he was allocating millions of dollars in new corporate tax breaks. This tax structure is fundamentally flawed.
We need to generate new revenue to support needed programs and services that our communities depend on. A more equitable tax system would include once again closing the Las Vegas loophole and instituting combined reporting, reinstating the estate tax for estates in excess of $1 million (excluding family farms) and a higher tax rate on the wealthiest families.
9. What reforms would you push for with the school system?
As the daughter of a public school teacher and the mother of a soon to be kindergartener at Lowell Elementary School, nothing is more important to me than making sure that every child has access to a quality public education. The whole public education funding system needs to be reworked. First, we need to figure out how much it actually costs to educate children and structure a funding system that meets those needs. The state needs to once again assume responsibility for a significant chunk of school funding, lessening the burden on local communities and property tax payers, and looking at ways to create more revenue for schools.
I would also push for more investments in our tech college system. Not every student is going to attend a four-year university, and we need to make sure we are giving these students skills so they can get a living wage job. We have a shortage in this state of skilled workers and we need to take steps to change that. We could revitalize our economy by becoming a leader in new technologies, provided we are training the work force with the skills needed for this industry to advance.
10. What are the most important issues facing women in Wisconsin?
Gov. Walker is waging a war on women; from attacking public sector employees (the majority of whom are women), defunding family planning, and pushing to eliminate access to abortion. As the lead advocate in the State Capitol for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, I have helped pass more pro-active reproductive rights legislation in the last four years than in the entire history of the Wisconsin legislature. I know firsthand that reproductive rights are directly linked to a woman's ability to exercise all other rights, to participate in the workforce and in the civic life of our community.
Women, at every age, experience poverty more frequently than men. Women earn lower wages than men, and more women than men work in jobs that leave them below the poverty line. Women depend more on safety net programs that are being slashed by Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans such as BadgerCare Plus, family planning and other women's health programs like WIC, Seniorcare and quality long-term care for seniors. Defunding these programs leave women struggling to economically survive.
11. If elected, what would you do to improve the economy?
I would focus on investing in new technologies that will constantly evolve and create jobs well into the future. We are primed to be at the forefront to be a leader in stem cell research and in the development of new technologies. We have a world-class academic institution to generate ideas combined with a manufacturing base looking for things to make. Wisconsin is an ideal place for building solar panels and wind turbines, but we need to make sure that we have a work force being trained with these skills. One way to do this is to encourage public-private partnerships between education and industry.
12. I've touched on some obvious big issues, but are there any issues that the media and general public are overlooking? What are they?
As I connect with thousands of voters across this district, people have consistently talked about the disregard our Governor and current legislative leaders have shown to our once strong tradition of clean, open government where citizens are encouraged to participate in both the legislative and electoral process. In recent months, our Capitol has been shut down, legislative power has been transferred and consolidated in the executive and we have passed a restrictive voter ID bill that will surely suppress some individuals' ability to vote.
If elected, I would propose a "WI Clean Government" Initiative which would restore the balance of power between the legislature and the executive by repealing the power of executive agencies to promulgate rules which override current statutes, restore the legislature's ability to oversee the Medicaid program, repeal additional political appointees which Gov. Walker has reclassified, clarify the open meetings law, and provide additional penalties for violations and repeal the new voter ID law.